Document Type


Publication Title

The Midwest Quarterly





First Page



Publication Date

Fall 2006


The work of Charles Hartshorne (1897-2000) may be the single most important factor in dissolving the consensus among philosophers that an entirely absolute deity should be considered normative for theology. What Hartshorne calls classical theism holds that God creates the universe ex nihilo, that God alone has the power to create, thereby entailing that the creatures are wholly uncreative. Classical theism is an anomaly in the sense that the Bible portrays God and the creatures in dynamic interaction with each other. Classical theism also presents various antinomies of how a God with no contingent properties could know a contingent and changing world, how a being that is unaffected by the creatures could truly love them, how the creatures could have any value since God possess it all, and how the creatures can be free if they can do no more than reenact what God has decided for them eternally. Hartshorne attempts to overcome these antinomies by arguing that God is dipolar, which means that God has an absolute and unchanging character and existence but is also related to the creatures in such a way as to be affected by their weal and woe, but always responsive in ideally appropriate ways. Hartshorne's distinction between existence/essence (absolute, unchanging) and actuality (relative, responsive, growing) is modeled on the distinction in a person of a relatively stable character and a changing response to various situations. In this way, Hartshorne can, without contradiction, speak of God as the most and best moved mover.

Included in

Philosophy Commons


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